Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Technology will transform schools.

New technology is engulfing our schools and will transform the way we learn and teach within a few decades. Even the role of school will change dramatically according to Peter Drucker the well known business philosopher.

This will not be the first time technology has transformed schooling. The first revolutionary technology to transform schools was the book! Not only did the book transform schools, it transformed society and led the West into its current supremacy. Before the book China and Islamic Ottoman Empire were the world's 'super-powers'. China and Islam however chose to refuse to redesign their schools around the book - China favored calligraphy and the Islamic clergy saw the book as a threat to their authority because it allowed the students to read on their own.

While the above cultures stagnated the West became the powerful new force - a place it has retained to this day. It was not so much the technology that changed things but the rethinking it caused, creating the vision of universal literacy, and allowing citizens to read the bible for themselves thus challenging the power of the Catholic Church.

Today new technology is creating the knowledge society but as yet no country has created the educational system the knowledge society needs. No one even knows what it will even look like but it is certain it will be dramatically different from what now currently exists. With information being the 'new capital' and with the ability for learners to get knowledge from anywhere, anytime, just when they need it, schools will need to reflect this new environment.

The definition of literacy will need to be redefined; all students will need to become 'life long learners' ( not just the ruling elite); schools need to be open to information coming from outside the school and will need to be available for people throughout their lives; both knowledge and process will be important; education will be available from different community organizations and, some say, it will eventuate in 'learning community'. Teachers will have to be both learners themselves and a resource to their students so as to ensure that their student's acquire a wide range of learning competencies so that they can learn from whatever challenges the future holds for them.

All these ideas provide a real challenge to schools still based on a transmission knowledge mind-set. As all students will need to focus on 'personal learning' customized around the strengths and talents of each learner.

The best model of a teachers will be that of an artist, or creative coach, or mentor. They will need to see that their students achieve to a high level and to appreciate that it is achievement itself that motivates and that this is best done by encouraging students to excel at what they are good at. This needs to involve both rigor and practice - good coaches and artists undestand this!

Will current schools ( particularly the past oriented secondary schools ) be able to make the changes? Or will they , like the early Chinese and Islamic cultures, stick to traditional roles? If they are not able to change new organizations will emerge to take their place. This is the more likely scenario.

Peter Drucker believes that no other institution faces challenges so radical as those that will face the schools. He believes we will see these new schools emerge by 2010 or 20. By then we will be in a new era where modern information technology will have changed society as much as did the book.

No comments: